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Another Voice: Huntley should be the site of a clean energy facility

By Joseph H. Emminger

On May 31, the state Public Service Commission completed a series of public hearings on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive to develop a Clean Energy Standard – thus nearing completion of an extremely cost-effective tool for reaching New York objectives to achieve an ultra-ambitious 50 percent renewable energy power generation goal by the year 2030.

At the same time, the recent retirement of the Huntley Station power plant has created a problem for the New York Power Authority – contributing to a condition identified by the PSC as Western New York transmission congestion. In essence, with Huntley not putting power on the grid, a portion of the Niagara Power Project power is, in effect, trapped in Western New York. The PSC directed the New York Independent System Operator to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to address this problem through either transmission or generation solutions.

It seems that bad timing precludes the ability to consider a large-scale Western New York renewable energy project that would gain support from the Clean Energy Standards – due for completion in a matter of weeks – from consideration for the “power congestion problem.” While complicated, it appears the RFP seeks to import power from neighboring states or Canada as a solution, versus a viable, local power generation solution that will create local jobs and tax revenues.

This is why we have come together to request reconsideration for the RFP to support additional time for consideration for a Western New York renewable energy solution.

So much is occurring in state energy policy under the leadership of the governor, and while the funds announced to assist communities in the significant loss of tax revenues is appreciated, could there be consideration for a broader transition plan resulting in the repowering of old fossil-fuel generation sites?

This would take advantage of existing interconnection infrastructure identified as costly in the PSC public hearings and in its cost-benefit report. What a great way to repurpose former carbon-emitting facilities into clean energy facilities. While an RFP to support clean energy may not be able to single out any specific site, it would seem a bidding advantage for a developer to utilize these sites as a cost advantage, and preference points may be considered for just such a process.

In the case of Huntley, the final chapter in the history of this facility that closed on its 100th anniversary of operation may be written not as a 100-acre brownfield. Rather, we can reuse it in a way that celebrates clean energy and captures a greenway mission through greater public access and perhaps on-site learning about whatever technology may get deployed there. Let’s go for it!

Joseph H. Emminger is supervisor of the Town of Tonawanda.